The Doctor, like many other off-world Time Lords, male and female, had been fighting the Time War in various parts of the galaxy for the last twenty years, with mixed success. Granted, some of the planets involved did not want outside assistance – especially from Time Lords, who they resented for varying reasons – political, ethical, moral, historical or just on principle. However, all accepted the assistance anyway, as they so badly needed it. The Daleks, with their sheer unemotional detachment, were well-known for their policy of extermination of all peoples and places of non-Dalek origin, unless they had something to be gained strategically from them. They were also infamous for their lack of compassion in the treatment of their prisoners, usually using them as slave labour or for jobs where Daleks would be at risk.
One of the Doctor’s ongoing regrets – one that he would have to live with for the rest of his life – was the fact that he tried to save so many planets from the ravages of the war and the cruelty of the Daleks, but could not save any of them completely. He had come to terms with this, however, and to a large extent had put thoughts of it behind him, so this was not the cause of his current torment.
Gallifrey itself rarely took part in battles – the High Council always preferring to observe, to advise or to give tacit support, rather than becoming directly involved. Some less critical races saw this as a good and appropriate means of placing a voluntary limitation on the interference of a group who in the past had wielded great power and had been unconcerned about the effects they had on other races. Warrior races such as the Sontarans and the Rutans saw the Time Lords’ policy of non-involvement as an intellectual pomposity to cover cowardice. Neither of these views was correct. It was true that the Time Lords had once wielded tremendous power and had abused that power. They never enslaved planets or used whole races in the way the Daleks or the Sontarans were wont to do. However, they had been known to set themselves up as gods and encourage what they saw as lesser races to depend upon them entirely and to even worship them in some cases. Then there were the Games where, purely for their own amusement, unscrupulous Time Lords used a time scoop to bring members of other races to what became known as the Death Zone on Gallifrey for gladiatorial games. This cruelty was ended by Rassilon once and for all. However, it took a long war with a race of giant vampires before the Time Lords finally turned away from violence permanently.
Although their non-involvement policies had kept Gallifrey peaceful and at peace with all its neighbours and trading partners, the results from these policies were just as callous as their violent policies of old had been. Their non-involvement sometimes even extended to standing by and watching whole planets be destroyed by some invading army, rather than offering to assist. In fact, it would never even occur to them that they should assist; they didn’t see it as any of their concern. This was one of the Doctor’s many disagreements with the Society of Time Lords that led to his escaping from Gallifrey, so many hundreds of years ago.
He could never understand their policy of non-involvement, but then the Doctor had what his old tutor at the Academy used to call ‘a distressing tendency to become emotionally attached and to see things from the alien perspective’. He had even, against his tutor’s advice, delivered an extremely persuasive and passionate speech on the subject for one of his final examinations, but although he achieved top marks for manner and delivery of the speech, he nearly failed because of the politically incorrect content. But even so, it never changed his ideals or his opinions.
As he grew older and travelled more widely, the ‘distressing tendency’, instead of dissipating as his family, friends and mentors had hoped, just became even stronger. As a result, the Doctor always became involved, whether it was by design or by accident, often landing himself in deep trouble, but always earning the eternal gratitude of the particular aliens that he chose to assist in the process. More often than not the aliens involved were from Earth – a small planet with a troubled history, but seemingly irresistible to the Doctor. In fact, the Doctor had had strong emotional ties to some of Earth’s inhabitants over the centuries, many of them becoming lifelong friends.
When the Time War had reached a critical stage, the Doctor, in his previous incarnation, had been summoned back to Gallifrey to help defend her in her greatest hour of need and to provide the High Council with the benefit of his knowledge and experience in fighting Daleks. A summons from Gallifrey was rarely issued and could never be refused – not under any circumstances! Even the most insubordinate of Time Lords, and there were many who would characterise the Doctor as one of these, would not think of disobeying – Gallifrey was burned into a Time Lord’s mind so firmly that an outsider would be convinced that it was part of their DNA and, in a sense, it was.
Gallifrey’s defences were entirely centred on the transduction barriers – the complicated mechanisms of invisible force fields created eons ago from the harnessing of the planet’s own magnetic and gravitational fields. The result was a highly repellent, but deadly, barrier around the planet. Any ship actually coming into physical contact with these barriers would be burnt up by the friction force of the contact. A series of transduction ‘gateways’ to allow authorised vehicles entry to the planet’s surface were monitored at all times. These ‘gateways’ were really impromptu holes punched in the barriers, controlled by the use of highly sophisticated electronics by Time Lords specially trained in the technology.
At the time the Doctor was summoned, the transduction barriers were stretched to their tolerance limit, due to the effects from continuous Dalek bombardment, and were in serious danger of collapse.
With respect to the Daleks, the Time Lords had always prepared a contingency battle plan – they always knew that one day there would come a time when there would be a reckoning between themselves and the Daleks. They had tried one hundred and fifty years ago to return to the time of the creation of the Daleks to terminate or restrict their development – even using the Doctor’s interest and in-depth knowledge of Daleks to persuade him to do their ‘dirty work’ for them – but without the desired result. The Doctor, then in his fourth incarnation, had agonised over it, but ultimately baulked at the idea of committing genocide – even on the Daleks – and had only managed a small delay in their development at the time.
In addition, the High Council had also expected the Doctor to update the TARDIS’ information systems with the new information he had learnt about the Daleks. The information could then be remotely imported into the Matrix to add to overall Time Lord knowledge of Dalek development, for future use. However, the High Council never knew whether he had added the knowledge or not. When the High Council organised to remotely access the information from the TARDIS’ systems, none of the built-in remote access codes for type forty time capsules would function. All attempts to access the information systems were unsuccessful, returning blunt ‘Remote Access Denied’ messages to Gallifrey.
The Doctor had not worked out as yet how to circumvent High Council remote access to the coordinate system of the TARDIS. It was, after all, an inbuilt safety mechanism of a type forty’s design. However, being particularly good with computers, he had learnt long ago that he could prevent remote access to the TARDIS’ information systems and so, naturally, he did!
It was as much due to the Doctor’s ‘failure’ to supply information as to his ‘failure’ in destroying the Daleks when he had the opportunity, that many regarded him as being unreliable. The High Council, therefore, looked upon him with suspicion. Because of this, they left it until a very late stage in the war, before summoning him back to Gallifrey. However, whatever their thoughts about him were personally, his intimate knowledge of the Daleks and their history was second to none and, regardless of whether some liked it or not, Gallifrey needed him…..